SAN JOSE – The Blue Jackets entered San Jose with the NHL’s worst record, but you wouldn’t have known it in the first period of Tuesday’s game against the Sharks at SAP Center.
Columbus was first to loose pucks, harder along the boards, and was rolling four lines effectively, while the Sharks looked as slow as they have all season playing mostly in their own end. Rather than jumping on a fragile opponent and putting them away early, the Sharks played from behind for much of the night in what was eventually a 5-2 loss.
Minor penalties to Chris Tierney and Brenden Dillon were partly to blame for the slow start, as both came in the first five minutes. Brandon Saad scored a power play goal at 6:11 to open the scoring.
“I thought we’d be better in the first period than we were. Took two penalties right off the bat,” Pete DeBoer said. “Got on our heels, took us awhile to recover. I thought from the second period on, we were the better team. We did a lot of good stuff. But, you can’t dig a hole in this league and expect to climb out of it. We’ve got to fix that start.”
Joe Pavelski, who scored both Sharks goals, also made note of the penalties. “We were sitting on our heels early, and it’s got to change.”
Although the Sharks escaped the first period tied 1-1, the Blue Jackets had the confidence they needed to withstand a better, but not overly dominant push from the home team over the second and third periods. Their much-maligned goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky outplayed Martin Jones on the other end, too. For the first time in his Sharks career, Jones was pulled for backup Alex Stalock, departing after two periods.
The Sharks’ starter gave up four goals on 21 shots, including a Scott Hartnell marker that found a small space over Jones’ right shoulder, and the game-winner at 18:32 of the second period to Boone Jenner when Jones and Brent Burns didn’t communicate on a puck behind the net.
“Gave up an early goal and a couple soft ones in the second,” Jones said. “We need to be better. Everyone needs to be better. I thought we got outworked tonight. But, at the end of the day I think everybody needs to be a little bit better.”
Although he wasn’t on his A-game, Jones was not the sole reason for the loss, as he implied. The Sharks continue to get next to nothing from their bottom two lines, which have scored exactly one goal in the nine games the Sharks have been missing the injured Logan Couture.
Third line center Tierney looks like he could again use some minor league seasoning that helped him so much last season, while Matt Nieto and Tommy Wingels are both off to tremendously disappointing starts. The fourth line features minor leaguer Bryan Lerg and should-be minor leaguer Barclay Goodrow, as well as Mike Brown – who at least did something on Tuesday night by trying to get his team going with a first period fight, but won’t ever be counted on to create much offensively.
It sounds like DeBoer has about had it with that group.
“I’m not getting enough out of our bottom six, or whatever you want to call those next two lines,” he said, after praising the top six. “We’ve shuffled guys around, we’ve moved guys in and out. We’re close to having to make some changes there, because it’s not working.”
Tierney said: “We’re not winning enough battles, myself [included]. It’s not there right now. We need to be better and we need to be effective, and we need to chip in for us to win games consistently. We know that, and it’s really frustrating not being able to get going right now. The only people we can blame is ourselves.”
The Sharks also lost the special teams battle again, 1-0. They’ve failed to score a power play goal at home through five games (0-for-13), while the penalty kill has allowed 10 goals in the past nine games.
“For us, the power play, we demand a lot out of ourselves and expect a lot,” Pavelski said. “It’s just unacceptable.”
San Jose will remain at home for the next three games, before a six-game road trip kicks off in Detroit on Nov. 13. There is no shortage of things they need to fix if they’re going to be anything other than a mediocre team for the next five months.
“Everybody goes through tough stretches,” Jones said. “We know we have a good group in here. We’ll respond. We’ve got the group in here to do it.”